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Features

Will County's 'Take Back the Night’ goes virtual this year — but the impact is real

Hundreds marched on the streets of downtown Joliet during the annual Will County Take Back the Night event held at Joliet Central High School in 2018.
Hundreds marched on the streets of downtown Joliet during the annual Will County Take Back the Night event held at Joliet Central High School in 2018.

Stay with an abuser? Or risk catching the coronavirus?

It’s a hard decision for a victim of domestic violence to make during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Amirrah Abou-Youssef, program manager for Guardian Angel Community Services’ Groundwork program.

Furthermore, the pandemic has affected how agencies serve these victims.

At 6 p.m. Oct. 8, Will County Take Back the Night’s annual event will be a virtual rally held on Facebook Live at facebook.com/willtbtn and opportunities to show support during October, which is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Abou-Youssef said.

During the rally, representatives from Guardian Angel Community Services and Bridges to a New Day counseling will share how continued to help victims while adhering to sheltering in place guidelines – and how victims can get help now, Abou-Youssef said.

In addition, the rally will include a memorial presentation commemorating the more than 60 women and children in Will County who have been killed at the hands of abusers over the past 10 years.

Abou-Youssef said the memorial is extremely important to loved ones.

“We hope we’ve created an event that honors that process even during covid,” Abou-Youssef said.

Abou-Youssef said that 1 in every 3 women and 1 in every 8 men experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

“The amount of men impacted by domestic violence is much larger than people probably really conceptualize,” Abou-Youssef said.

In order to meet the needs of victims during the COVID-19 pandemic, Guardian Angel’s Groundwork program had to make some adaptations, she said.

These included making adjustments in its communal living space and the shelter’s actual location and safely switching from in-person counseling to virtual counseling, she said.

This last took some planning if the abuser was home with the victim, Abou-Youssef said.

Despite the virtual event, the community can still help in some tangible ways.

Instead of bringing nonperishable items for a food pantry, Take Back the Night will share Amazon Wish Lists from local domestic violence shelters and people can donate items on the lists to the shelters.

The community may also show support for the victims by wearing something purple (ribbons and nails count, Youssef said) and then taking a selfie. Email the photo and an explanation of why the topic of domestic violence is important to willcountytbtn@gmail.com.

Photos will share shared on Take Back the Night’s social media pages with the hashtag #PaintWillCountyPurple.

During the event, Take Back the Night will seek to raise $6,000. Donations will fund a scholarship for a domestic violence survivor and support local charities that help women and children who have experienced violence.

Besides, simply participating in the event might encourage a person in your life to seek help, even if you didn’t know the person was experience domestic violence, Abou-Youssef said.

“That allows that person to know you are a safe person who cares,” Abou-Youssef said.

To donate and for more information, visit willtbtn.com.

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